By Sam Donnelly
For Sylvan Lake News
The Broom Tree Foundation, a Lacombe not-for-profit organization, which offers assistance to women facing difficult times, reflected on the last year of helping the community during a very difficult year.
“Each individual has their own story and it’s an honour to be a part of that story,” said Tamara Noordhof, co-founder and program director of The Broom Tree.
Since Jan. 3, 2020, The Broom Tree has offered three main programs devoted to helping the community of Lacombe.
The first is the Bridges program, which involves listening to a woman who has experienced poverty, violence or other serious difficulty and helping them find the resources they need. Currently, the Bridges program supports up to 100 women.
The Broom Tree Cafe on 50 St. in Lacombe is a social enterprise cafe offering women a chance to get into the workforce. The main focus of the cafe is to make sure everyone has a chance to eat.
Finally, their transitional housing program offers temporary housing for women facing housing challenges.
Since the start of 2021, the organization has faced many challenges related to COVID-19. The most notable was the reduction in foot traffic to the cafe.
“There has been a negative impact, that’s for sure,” said Donna Abma, co-founder and executive director of The Broom Tree.
While disappointed, Abma said that the reduced foot traffic has allowed them to use the extra time to cook warm meals for people in need.
Abma said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in issues like addiction, domestic violence and hopelessness. She added that while these problems may be harder to see in a place like Lacombe, it is no less real.
While the not-for-profit has faced challenges, they’ve also found ways to expand during these trying times.
The Noelle program was started in 2021 and focuses on helping families facing a difficult holiday season with gifts and other help.
The Token program was also started as a way for non-profits around Lacombe to give tokens that can be used at The Broom Tree cafe for a hot meal.
The Under the Bridges program was also expanded to include The Broom Tree sister program. This program currently involves 20 women, taking the time to listen, mentor and support women in the community who may need that support.
In the next year, The Broom Tree would like to enhance its transitional housing program with the goal being that they would have their own building to offer transitional housing instead of having to work out a situation with a local hotel or other multi-suite building.
While Noordhof was not able to comment about any progress yet, she did say that they are currently in talks with a building owner about a space that would meet their needs.
Abma took the time to speak about the tremendous support Lacombe has given The Broom Tree.
The Broom Tree has received inquiries from all over Lacombe, including from churches, businesses and individuals.
“People come to us and ask us what they can do and we tell them,” said Abma.
Whether it’s with their time, or money the community around Lacombe has been very supportive of the organization, Abma said.
On Feb. 15, the Broom Tree Cafe will be celebrating its two-year anniversary. For more information, visit The Broom Tree Facebook page.